VW SOARS, BUT MITSUBISHI PLAYS THE DREADED 'MINIVAN' CARD: AUTOMOTIVE

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Volkswagen: "Flower," "Soul" and "UFO" were named Best TV spots of 1998 (see story on page S-1).

Volkswagen: "Drumstick," "Dawg," :30s Arnold Communications, Boston

Satellite Productions, Johan Camitz, director

T for VW advertising -- otherwise, it was slim pickings in this all-important category last year.

These subtle, engaging teasers for a redesigned, re-energized line of VWs played nicely off the more spacey feel of the Beetle print and TV work, which is why they caught the fancy of our jury.

As with VW's much-awarded U.K. advertising, these spots feature no car footage at all -- just scenes of people (or, in one case, animals) psyching themselves up for the new Volkswagens, either by pretending to race through the gears using a chicken leg in a bowl of dip as a gearshift or just by hopping up on a chair to catch an imaginary car window breeze.

In this respect, they're a welcome change of pace from the overwrought, effects-laden imagery most viewers have come to expect from automotive advertising.

Fresh and unexpected, this work perfectly met the agency's stated goal of "catching a buzz and keeping the magic catalyzed by the new Beetle alive."

RUNNER-UP

Mitsubishi: "Manhood," :30

Deutsch, Los Angeles

Lovinger/Cohn, Paul Goldman, director

This telling spot, in which an iron-pumping, thirtysomething guy in a gym reacts with embarassed shame as the p.a. annoucer keeps repeating a warning that "there's a tan mini-van in the parking lot with its lights on," was one of the Deustch's early efforts for Mitsubishi's dealer group. Its success, and that of others in the campaign, eventually won the entire brand assignment for the agency.

Surrounded by macho weight-lifters who are all glancing around to see which among them drives the dreaded soccermom-mobile, the guy in this spot marvelously embodies the misgivings some baby boomers seem to feel about the encroachment of adulthood. The strategy here is that you don't have to give up fun when you become a grown-up -- and the obvious solution is to ditch the mini-van in favor of a cool Mitsubishi -- and while this carmaker is not the only one to take this tack, Deustch managed to convey the message with a verisimilitude that easily

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